Paul Gasol shoots over Marcin Gortat during the Lakers' loss to the… (Harry E. Walker / McClatchy-Tribune )
WASHINGTON — While the Lakers have their wallet open ...
Is Pau Gasol next?
"We have not had any discussions with Pau," Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said Tuesday. "I'm sure I will. And where that leads, I'm not sure right now. A lot has to do with different variables."
Ah, variables. There are many indeed with Gasol.
Will Gasol play better than he has so far this season? How much of a pay cut will he take? Will the Lakers even want him back if they can get someone else in free agency in July?
Gasol, 33, hasn't had a great start in the last year of a contract paying him $19 million this season. His defense and his accuracy have been lacking.
He acknowledged in a roundabout way he'd have to take a pay cut if he wanted to return to the Lakers next season.
"Generally speaking, I think we all at some point have to make sacrifices, but we'll see," Gasol said. "I don't know what my situation's going to be or the team's interest moving forward. It hasn't been expressed to me as much as it has been expressed to [Kobe Bryant] and shown to him to this point.
"I'm playing well as of late. I'm going to try to continue to extend my game and that's what's going to help me."
Gasol was supposed to have a bounce-back year after regaining the post position he lost during Dwight Howard's one-year tenure with the Lakers. It hasn't happened. Gasol is averaging 14.5 points and 10.3 rebounds. He is shooting only 43%.
The Lakers gave Bryant a two-year, $48.5-million contract extension Monday, which made sense, Gasol said, because "he's the face of the Lakers."
Kupchak acknowledged that the Lakers were focused first and foremost on re-signing Bryant. Gasol and other players in contract years — of which there were many on the Lakers' payroll this season — would have to wait.
"There was no reason for anything to take place until we sign Kobe," Kupchak said.
Bryant signed his extension Monday morning at the El Segundo office of his agent, Rob Pelinka.
Then Bryant headed to LAX and celebrated on the team's five-hour charter flight Monday to Washington?
"I think he was soundly asleep," Gasol said. "I guess he was peaceful and, I don't know, catching up on his sleep."